Three very large needlework panels embroidered in silk (89/91 × 340, 89/91 × 218, 89/91 × 218 cm), newly framed and glazed with ultraviolet filtering acrylic Perspex.
The longest panel (here designated A) depicts an assault by mounted Christian Knights on a tower defended by Muslims; the left half is derived from an engraving by Francesco Villamena after Antonio Tempesta, first published in Rome about 1610, and reissued there in the 1620s and 1630s. Each state of the print features the insignia of a different Roman family (Barberini, Cesarini, Brancaccio); in the panel, the insignia of the Guidi di Bagno family is displayed. The design sources for the other two panels are unknown, and the story narrated in the three panels is unrecognised – it could be factual, or literary (as is suggested by the image of the cloud-borne tower), or historical and allegorical elements could be mingling freely. The embroideries likely were commissioned in Rome by Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Guidi di Bagno, or by his brother, Cardinal Nicolò Guidi di Bagno; both had a particular regard for textiles.
The embroideries were re-discovered in the 1950s at the country seat of the Shrewsbury family, Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire, “rolled up and tucked away in an unfrequented corner of an attic where they had evidently been since their removal from Alton Towers” (Ingestre Hall: an illustrated survey of the Staffordshire residence of the Chetwynd Talbot family, 1957). They may have been acquisitions of Charles Talbot, 12th Earl and 1st Duke of Shrewsbury, who travelled in Italy 1701-1705 and married a Bolognese countess; another possible source is John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, who after his succession to the earldom and its estates in 1827, bought artworks on a vast scale to furnish Alton. He was a frequent visitor to Rome (his two daughters married into the Borghese and Doria Pamphilij families) and he acquired there many works of art, including the entire collection of nearly two hundred paintings belonging to Letizia Bonaparte.